Our Buddhism Book Bunch (BBB) at FSZS, has just read Bring Me The Rhinoceros, by John Tarrant. It is a small book on the beauty of the Koan or teaching form, honed over hundreds of years, to help us see reality, in a different light. It is a gentle book albeit with a smack or two, or three....or orange.
You know the sound of two hands clapping...what is the sound of one hand? This is probably the best know koan. Koan means public case. It is a short-hand invitation for deep diving into self and/or conversation.
In fact a koan is meant for conversation-sharing the Dharma of clear awareness. So lets play with the koan above. Do you know the sound of two hands clapping? Which two hands? High fives are two hands clapping. What about the sound, well aren't the sounds different as in never the "same" sound twice? What is the feeing of two hands clapping? Slowly raise your right hand and move it to the left as if expecting the left hand to meet it, as in expecting a two-hand collision. But, now follow the hand's path and you see and sense something, not the sound of two, but the essence of moving through air. Now, place your right hand close to and just above your right ear and and wave it downward as if you were going to clap your shoulder. What do you hear?
Koans pull the rug out from under closed-minds and open the full capacity of the mind. In this example our tired belief of clapping is shattered. A few months back, I saw a musician's talk about everything is music, even a carrot. As he was talking he produces a carrot and held it up for people to listen-silence (except for the laughter). Then he cut, did some peeling, bored a length-long hole then four finger-holes and attached a saxophone mouthpiece on one end and a small funnel on the other. He then freed the song Tea for Two from the carrot...